If you fail your test the first time, you need to go back to the drawing board to learn more and keep trying.

It may seem like an odd comparison to make, but it is a simple way to explain howSouthampton have risen to the second tier of women's football.

In the aftermath of the men's team being demoted from the premier league, funding for the women's team was withdrawn.

They applied to jump from the Hampshire Women's League Division 1 to the FA Women's Championship in March of last year, but were unsuccessful.

Image: Starling Bank have sponsored Southampton Women for the 2022/23 Championship season

It wasn't going to be easy to get to the top.

Marieanne Spacey-Cale was appointed head of women's and girl's football four months later. She was a pioneer of the women's game in the 1980's and 90's and was an England international for over two decades.

The club could not have picked a better one since they were so far away from the professional game.

The appointment of the 56-year-old has turned out to be a master stroke.

In Spacey-Cale's first season in charge, Saints won the southern region premier division with a flawless record of 18 wins from 18 games.

Due to Covid, the next two seasons in National League Division 1 South West were truncated, but they applied for upward club movement in the summer of 2021.

They won that one at a canter, too, finishing nine points clear of second-place Oxford having scored 99 goals and lost one. Sophia Pharoah's first-half goal gave them a place in the play-off and they went on to beat Wolves.

Southampton Women's Championship results 2022/23

  • Southampton 0-2 Charlton - August 20
  • Lewes FC 2-2 Southampton - August 28
  • Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton - September 18
  • Bristol City 1-1 Southampton - September 25
  • Coventry United 2-0 Southampton - October 2
  • Southampton 1-0 Birmingham - October 17
  • Sheffield United 0-1 Southampton - October 23
  • Southampton 1-0 Sunderland - October 30
  • Southampton 3-0 Coventry United - November 2
  • Blackburn 1-1 Southampton - November 20

You can see the comparison now.

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Spacey-Cale said that the application to the Championship not being successful was probably a positive as much as a negative.

We've had success on the pitch, but only because we've had time to grow and be ready for new challenges.

"We instilled a more elite mindset in the players so they believed we could achieve this and that we would work hard off the pitch to ensure that, when they got out on the pitch, all they would have to think about was performing to."

When we reach the next level, we're ready.

Saints have taken to Championship football straight away because of their winning mentality. The London City Lionesses have won five of their nine league outings so far.

Professionalizing over the summer did not depend on promotion.

Since they stepped up a level, what has changed to help them adapt?

She says they are thankful for the support of the club. If we weren't successful, we would have had a better chance of being successful the following year.

Image: The 56-year-old made 91 appearances for England during her playing career and previously worked as assistant to Mark Sampson

Performance psychology, gym work, education workshops around nutrition and diet, all the things we were doing but on limited time as they were only in three evenings a week have now been given more contact time with the players.

We are able to expand that. Generic workshops for players are very good, but individualised programmes around players' own nutrition, their own gym programmes, and their movement control patterns are even better.

The men's and women's teams are both based at the club's Staplewood training base which allows for more collaboration between the coaching staff.

"The club allows that to happen and we're not separated at all; you can walk down corridors, around the training pitch andbump into first-team players and everyone will have a discussion and support each other."

It is a great place to work. Sometimes I need to walk up the corridor to have a chat with some of the other guys. It's nice because it's not just me going to them.

Spacey-Cale's troops play many of their home games at St Mary's, too, having previously used Testwood Stadium as their only venue.

She says that the matchday experience is mirrored to what would happen on a Saturday.

St Mary's and Totton have different fan bases, so playing at the stadium will allow us to grow our fan base. Signing autographs and pictures is important.

Starling Bank's sponsorship of the women's team has helped increase the club's fan base as they continue their rise.

The sponsorship is a continuation of Starling's celebration of women's football, after it launched the first fantasy football game for women's football in the UK and awarded grants to women's grassroots.

The partnership will take us to a higher level. One of the pillars of our goal tree is to inspire our community and a big part of the partnership with Starling is working with people to have active lifestyles.

"This partnership will help us on the field and give us a sense of pride and that we want to keep pushing because Starling believe in us, so we'll support that belief back."

Image: Spacey-Cale's players will play a large number of their home games at St Mary's this term

Thousands of volunteers in the region work full-time during the day and then help young boys and girls in training. One of the big successes will be if this partnership is successful.

There is only one aim, and that is to combine all the factors that have contributed to the success of the club.

We would like to be in the WSL. Spacey-Cale doesn't apologize for that forward- thinking.

We need to keep adjusting. It used to be that every game was a challenge, but now it's a challenge. I know it will get harder from here.

We know that it will take two or three years to get to the WSL. We are going towards that. Every game in the Championship is a step in the right direction. We are confident that we will get there.

The women have passed their test many times and are on their way to the top flight.